AS THE WEATHER WARMS, IT’S TIME TO TURN TO A TRUSTY WHITE. IN PARTICULAR, THE PRODUCTS OF SHAW + SMITH ARE SURE-FIRE WINNERS
Idon’t drink a lot of sauvignon blanc.
I struggle a bit with its flavour profile. Most are just too sweet, some too acidic and some just downright smell like a tomcat has taken a wee on a passionfruit vine.
However, with the weather warming I thought it would be a good opportunity to go back and look at one of the few savvies that I will happily reach for: the Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc, a wine that has consistently been Australia’s best homegrown savvy since it was released.
Shaw + Smith began in 1989 when, over lunch, cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith decided to realise a long-held dream to make wine together and to make it with fruit exclusively from the Adelaide Hills.
They originally started making their fabulous sav blanc, along with a coolclimate shiraz, and a ridiculously good single vineyard chard called M3, with the fruit for the wine coming from a 42ha vineyard at Woodside, called the “M3 vineyard”, which gained its name from the first letter of the three vineyard owners’ names: Michael and Matthew Hill Smith and Martin Shaw.
Michael and Martin didn’t have any winemaking facilities at the time, and would use the facilities at Wirra Wirra and Petaluma until in 1999 when they purchased a 46ha property between Balhannah and Hahndorf, in the Adelaide Hills. Their new “Balhannah” vineyard became the site for their winemaking facilities, cellar door/ tasting rooms and was quickly planted out with 35ha of vines, predominantly with sauvignon blanc but also carries some close planted shiraz and a small parcel of pinot noir.
In 2012 they added a 20ha property at Lenswood to their holdings, a site that was planted in 1999 with pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
In 2011 the pair made a bold move and decided to step away from their original idea of only using Adelaide Hills’ fruit and purchased a vineyard in Tasmania’s Coal River Valley.
The vineyard had been established in 1988, planted out with chardonnay and pinot noir. The fruit was of such exceptional quality that it went into some of Australia’s most respected chard. The pair quickly made a commitment to respect the site, and decided to make a stand-alone label called Tolpuddle Vineyard, named after the Tolpuddle Matyrs, a group of convicts that were sent from England to work in Tasmania.
The wines under the label are outstanding and, while not cheap, show an exceptional ability to age, making them ideal for collectors or those looking for wines to celebrate a special year.
Both ranges can sometimes be a little difficult to lay your hands on, easiest option here would be your local favourite independent bottleshop or online, taking the opportunity to stock up for Christmas.
SHAW + SMITH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2017
This is the 28th vintage for what is, undoubtedly, Australia’s finest sauv blanc, and from first sniff you can tell why. Pick a tropical fruit and you can smell it in the glass, from soursop through to lychee and rambutan, perfect as an aperitif, better by the pool in the coming months. RRP $27 about $25 instore.
SHAW + SMITH LENSWOOD CHARDONNAY 2015
This could well end up going down as one of the best chardies of the decade. White stone fruits in the glass, with some soft spice and a light flinty character. On the tongue it’s crisp and precise, those stone fruits showing through with light almond meal and a little clotted cream. The oak handling is oh-so-perfect. Will cellar well for the next 10-15 years, too.
TOLPUDDLE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2016
Another stunner for the Tassie winery, gentle notes of crushed dry leaf and spices, light forest floor with some sour cherry and beetroot leaf. It’s big and powerful with a concentrated palate – I really like this. More than enough going on in the glass that this will work with food. It will carry about 10 years in the bottle and if you have the ability it would be worth putting a few away to watch them develop.
TOLPUDDLE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2015
A masterclass in how an intense wine can still be delicate; toasty brioche, spicy oak and white te peach on the nose, the palate is built around a core of acid and shows green apple and citrus fruits/lemon curd. Will benefit from a few years in a cool, dark spot, too, cellaring for about 10 years from vintage year.